Viking Finger, DNA and a ‘meh’ compliment

Now, this is my kind of Viking! Grrrrr…

I hope the title of this post intrigues you to read to the end.  The story is all over the place but linked by DNA.  Teddy, my husband, and I have always been competitive about our various ailments/oddities.  That is why we are soul-mates…  Recently, Ted had been complaining about a little growth on his pinkie finger.  Long story short, the Italian American surgeon operated and came out to tell me what the prognosis was after the surgery.  Unexpectedly, he told me it was a benign tumor and he had never seen anything like it.  It seemed to be wrapped around the tendon.  Then he told me that he had his DNA test and discovered (to his obvious Braveheart excitement) that he had a significant percentage of Scottish DNA.  This was a red letter day for him – an unusual surgery on his Scottish compatriot.  I had to gently let him know that the Scottish wife was really an Irish Hispanic mix.  Hilariously, to me, he could not have looked more Italian but perhaps in his heart he was wearing blue Woad and tartan.

The growth went to pathology and a week later Teddy met with the Italian/Scots surgeon who excitedly told him that it was Dupruyen’s Contracture, a thickening of tendons in the hand that most commonly occurs in men around age 60 from Northern Europe.  In Teddy’s case the thickening was on the upside of the finger when it is usually the other way around.  When he came home we Googled it to find out that it is sometimes called Viking Finger.  Can you imagine the fun I had with vulgar comments about my Viking’s Finger and where he could put it??  I have to admit that this month he has beat my giant cyst, Pumpkin, and the atrophied hoo-ha.

This led on to thinking what our DNA tests have done to us.  Despite being 60% Irish, I cling defensively to my Conquistador heritage with a dash of Native American.  I am deeply unhappy that Teddy has 4% more Iberian DNA than me.  He is unhappy that he has no Native American ancestry despite having no American relatives.  On many an occasion, a flirtatious Hispanic man has been so disappointed that my maiden name was Ortega. “But you look Scandinavian or Irish!” Our family was convinced that we were secretly Jewish but my DNA indicates otherwise…

So, I am at the airport this weekend and yet another Arabic man flirts with me (or is the other way around)?  I would have guessed that he was a little older than me.  First, he tells me I am beautiful.  That elicited a smile and thank you.  Then he asked me what age I was.  I was surprised at the query but answered honestly that I will be 57 in a month.  He looked me over and said, “I would have taken you for 51, maybe 52.” WTF!!!!  Surely he could have told a little white lie and suggested 45?  I will take any compliment but that was a bit ‘meh’.  Then he asked me where I was from and I told him the usual spiel. You could see the disappointment on his face when I told him I had North African and Middle Eastern ancestry. “But you look Scandinavian”.  I sighed and agreed that I had 1% Scandinavian ancestry.  Now he was happy that he had flirted with one of ABBA’s kin.

I am beginning to come to terms that I am as Irish as a Mullingar heifer no matter how varied my DNA is. I sound Celtic, I look Irish and in America that is way more fascinating than all that Conquistador stuff.  Isn’t it funny how life changes?  At one time being Irish in America was as welcome as a Mexican immigrant.  Well, I have both Irish and Mexican immigrant ancestors so to all the haters out there; I am raising one Viking Finger!

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I can’t participate…

tornado

Some of you may know that we have had some extreme weather in the Houston area. I live a little north of the main Houston area and on Tuesday evening/Wednesday night we had a tornado just a few miles from our house. I heard the cell phones go off with yet another storm warning (we have had so many recently). I ignored it and the really loud thunder and lightning. The next morning we discovered that a 62 year old woman had been killed in what looked like a pre-fabricated house when a tree fell across her home. I was envious.

I thought, ‘How lovely to die instantaneously with no sickness or problems’. I am 55, so she is hardly much older than me. This is how you feel when you have major depression. My thoughts are filled with death and the longing for it, yet I am not suicidal. I have been unwell for months and my doctor is trying to address it with both an increase and addition in medication. It is working, to some extent, but time is a major factor, as is reducing stress which is out with my capabilities at the moment.

I have a new job and I enjoy it but worry about it incessantly. What if I make a mistake, what if they don’t employ me again? I am trying to be supportive of my husband who is looking for work and setting up a new company but it is as if someone has cut my brain stem. Every so often I come out with a brilliant idea which thrills him but I know I am capable of so much more. Things are beginning to look more positive with the possibility of clients but I don’t care.

My recent cataract surgery has been successful but my chronic dry eye condition has made me feel miserable. I finally went back to the surgeon today and he gave me steroids to help. My husband was with me and thought the surgeon was sympathetic. In my mind, he was saying, “Put your big girl pants on”. This week I got a corporate gratuity from one of the companies I work for (which I suspect everyone got) but I started worrying about how much I had flirted, was it appropriate?

My friends are trying to help me and some are more successful than others. One is constantly giving me encouragement about daring to join the workforce when I feel so ill and others tentatively pace around me. I know that they don’t want to say the wrong thing or upset me but they can’t. My emotions feel deadened and yet raw. I feel as though my life will never be the same again although logically I know it could be even better.

I have been down this path so often that I know I will recover but each time I feel I lose a little bit of myself. I suspect the opposite is true and I evolve into a kinder, more compassionate person after each episode. My blogging is stop/start and then I feel like I am being excluded when that is not the case. When you stop blogging, followers probably think you are busy getting on with life.

I can’t participate right now… but I will join you later.

Eye, Eye, Captain

kerry cyborg3

Would you sleep with this woman?

You know that question was rhetorical. Who doesn’t want to sleep with a cyborg in bright pink PJs? For those of you who are new to my blog, I had three bad things happen recently. My husband was laid off from the oil industry, my beloved mother in law died and I unexpectedly needed eye surgery to treat a subcapsular cataract that had formed in my left eye. Everything had to happen quickly to take advantage of our existing health insurance and last week I had eye surgery on Wednesday.

We turned up at the clinic and things proceeded quite quickly…until they couldn’t find a vein. After two attempts, the charming southern anesthetist was called and inserted the IV. This meant that my pre medication, commonly known as a medical margarita, was late in being delivered. The schedule was a bit off and suddenly I was being raced into the operating theater. Before that, I had been asked on numerous occasions which eye it was, confirmed my identity and was reassured that no-one was going to take out a kidney. From previous procedures I knew I wasn’t as Margarita ‘happy’ as I usually am and was a little concerned.

I was taken first to the laser which was going to chop up the cataract and the remains are vacuumed out. Despite the numbing drops and the pre-med I was completely aware of what was happening and could even feel a slight burning at the end of the laser procedure. Utterly terrified I kept completely still and followed all instructions. Then I went across the room to another bed where the new lens was implanted into my eye (until death, I hope). I kept hoping the happy juice would kick in but no….I was utterly aware of everything. It was like torture but with no pain. I felt the various procedures, one by one and although it was fast it felt like an eternity.

At the end, the operating staff said I was a perfect patient. I can only hope I react the same way at my next torture session when China finally invades the US or whatever other scenario the crazy people envisage. The next day I saw my eye surgeon for a follow up and even he looked horrified that I had been quite so awake. They need you to be in a twilight zone so that you can follow instructions precisely but feel relaxed. This was not like Lasik – then I was so happy I thought I could fly.

The very nice silver lining is that my sight has been restored and I am writing this WITH NO READERS! My baby blues still look adorable and I am recovering very quickly. Drove to the surgeon the following day; been out for my long walk with sunglasses and a hat. I have myriad eye drops to take for weeks to come to prevent infection, inflammation and general mayhem. This is America – it cost a fortune but it was done almost immediately and by an excellent surgeon who I could choose. We paid extra to have the laser seal the wound with no stitches which usually means a quicker recovery with less complications and discomfort.

They had to dilate my eye hugely for the surgery and I looked like a Betazoid on Star Trek with one enormous black eye. This photograph was taken the next day and even the surgeon was surprised that it was so dilated. When I was young and frisky, guys used to ask me if my eyes were black but I was just so excited that my pupils dilated hugely. Perhaps they still do…. 🙂

kerry betazoid

Can you see the mark of Kwok above my eye? It was so weird having one black eye.

Finally – many thanks to all my followers who have been so solicitous about my surgery and other health problems. It has been much needed salve in my current wounds and has helped keep me afloat in a very difficult time in my life. It is hard to imagine the kindness of strangers and those who have become good friends. It is a testament to the goodness of people and I very much appreciate every single comment and ‘like’.

PS My surgeon’s name was Kwok and he marked my eye to make sure they did the left one.

Out, out, damned cataract!

cataract

Sorry about the title, I was a drama geek at school and I am generally a bit of a Lady McBeth. Well, I saw the eye surgeon on Monday. Doesn’t it worry you when a surgeon seems excited about a case? I have a subcapsular cataract which can develop dramatically quickly, sometimes in a few weeks but in my case over a year. He was astonished at how little I could see with my left eye and said, “Haven’t you noticed flaring in your left eye?” My response was that I had only noticed it since my first diagnosis, a week before. It isn’t the normal ageing cataract but can sometimes be caused by diabetes or steroid use. My father and grandmother had diabetes but I have no sign of it, nor have I been taking steroids. I also have a pinguecula, which is a benign growth on eye and we agreed that both may be caused by UV damage. Blue eyes are especially sensitive when living in the subtropics for as long as we have. There is a possibility that the Lasik surgery I had 11 years ago may have also caused it. Now I can hear my mother’s voice in my head saying, “It doesn’t come from our side of the family!” For some reason she was always very upset that I didn’t have 20/20 vision – perhaps because I had to cover up my baby blues with thick glasses.

The very highly recommended eye surgeon told me far too much about exactly what he was going to do, statistics and gross stuff. This was only mitigated by him having a strong Chinese accent – he is from Hong Kong originally. He is a fascinating guy – originally he was a mechanical engineer and then studied medicine. As my regular eye doctor pointed out, it is his fascination with technology and detail that makes him a gifted surgeon. When I was in the waiting room, I noticed that most of his patients were elderly which is to be expected. They looked like regular down home folks and I wondered how on earth they understood anything he said? Most Texans struggle with my accent, which is very well enunciated, by the way… Perhaps it’s a blessing that they didn’t hear the gross stuff like how he breaks down the cataract with a laser and then suctions it all out. With a teeny, tiny Dyson, maybe?

Then he will put in an acrylic lens and with a bit of luck, I will have perfect vision in that eye until I die. I might die just thinking about it – relax, I jest! I was assured by his technical detail – he took endless measurements and wanted to know precisely at what angle I held my laptop to get the best end result. With good luck my previous eye doctor still had the records of my eye prescription pre and post Lasik which will help further. My real concern was cost but United Healthcare will cover both him and the clinic where the operation is performed. We still have to pay a substantial sum of money but if we lived in Scotland I would be on a long waiting list and probably have to go private anyway.

He noticed that I was fit and told me that I couldn’t do strenuous exercise for a couple of weeks. I looked at him quizzically and he said, “No boxing”. People these days are just crazy. If it’s not Zumba, it’s kick-boxing. That’s okay if you are a youngster but walking is good enough for the rest of us. BTW, Osyth, I will be awake for the surgery! Now I am kind of excited that if all goes well I won’t even have to wear middle-aged reading glasses.

♫ You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you ♫

Which eye?

kerry refuge

Do you ever wonder what you might have been in a previous life to deserve the one you have? I think I might have been a serial killer of kittens. No, hang on, that was this life when I had to euthanize Mrs. Stripes’ endless sick kittens. The veterinarian did it – I am not that creepy. Anyway, as you know, life has been a tad stressful recently with layoff and bereavement. Now I can add unexpected eye surgery to the mix.

We were getting all ready to choose an affordable health plan instead of taking Cobra in March and I have been seeing all my doctors in preparation. Today I had my yearly eye exam and paid extra to have that fancy new test that sees deep into the eye. Last year I was nonplussed to find out that I had very small cataracts in both eyes. I am in denial about middle-age… My assumption was that they would take years to develop into full blown cataracts.

Today the eye doctor said, “What can you see on the screen with your left eye?” “I can’t even see writing on the screen”, I replied. Even my doctor was shocked and astonished at how rapidly it had grown. At this stage I am essentially blind in one eye. We are very fortunate to live in the greater Houston area and I now have an appointment with an eminent eye surgeon next Monday. The plan is to have the cataract removed and a lens implanted. I knew it was serious because he held my hand.

Now we have to continue with Cobra, which we are fortunate to have, because this wonderful eye surgeon and my eye doctor are not covered on the new plans offered. Additionally, I went to my GP today because I thought I had shingles (without the rash). That could mean that the surgery would have to be delayed until my immune system is stronger. My incessant itching and upset tummy is a bit of a mystery, however, and despite a barrage of questions (and another doctor’s opinion), it doesn’t seem to be shingles.

Dr. Kerry thinks that my body is just under stress from recent travel across the Atlantic and everything else going on. Certainly my new pirate façade is not helping the stress! The weird thing is that you can’t see anything and that I have not noticed such a massive shift in vision, probably because I had mono-vision anyway. I have just realized that the lucky readers who have a universal health system won’t realize that Cobra is a government funding system that allows you to continue your work funded healthcare for 18 months after redundancy/layoff. You have to pay the full cost by yourself, however, instead of 20% or whatever we paid.

Dang it – one minute it is the menopause, then it’s the eyes! Last week I discussed with Teddy that I only want to live until 75 (an arbitrarily chosen time) but it looks like my parts are wearing out quicker than I thought. That was some black humor. I would feel better if I could drink a bottle of wine but I have to stick to a bland diet until my gastric system settles down. Think of me when you are having your Thai meal with some wine tonight!